Well, the vote has been taken.
And the church has said no. Inexplicably, perhaps. Yet, the answer still was no.
For the past five years, the Adventist Church undertook an unprecedented study on the biblical meaning of ordination with the expressed attempt at creating a consensus about what ordination is and is not. The Theology of Ordination Study Committee met several times in the past quinquennium, and it appeared as though a relative agreement was reached. Two-thirds of the committee agreed that there was no biblical injunction against ordaining women to the gospel ministry.
The question was put forth for this summer’s General Conference session in San Antonio: Should divisions be authorized to make provision for women’s ordination within their territories?
The tent is shrinking.
Like many Adventists around the world, I’ve been following all of the news from the General Conference session in San Antonio this week. We elected new leadership, made changes to the Church Manual, and more. But I perceive a very disturbing trend.
Adventism’s big tent got a lot smaller.
I certainly don’t advocate sacrificing truth. We must always and ever be faithful to Scripture and to the Jesus that is revealed in them.
Unfortunately, we’ve probably done more to limit God this week than we have in a long time. We’ve decided as a corporate body that the mystery of creation took place not long ago in six literal days. We’ve decided that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman (even while giving dispensation to certain areas of the world to continue to engage in polygamy after conversion). We’ve decided that divisions cannot decide for themselves whether or not to ordain women (and as that debate raged, it became clear that it was much less an issue of divisional autonomy than it was about the role of women in the church).
The debate has been raging. For years. Thousands of pixels and trees have died for the cause.
In Adventist circles (at least in recent memory), if you want to have a lively (and often contentious) Sabbath School class, all you have to do is to bring up the issue of the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. It seems that everyone has an opinion on this issue.
Naturally, I do too. But before I share it, I want to talk about the debate as a whole.
You see, both sides of the debate have the same objective. Whether you are for or against the ordination of women, your main objective is simple:
To remain faithful to the Word of God.
There was a time I wanted to be a delegate to General Conference Session.
Immediately following the 2000 Session in Toronto, the Sabbath School class I was attending at Sligo Church lamented the lack of representation of young Adventists. Someone in the class told be I would be a delegate next session.
I’m still waiting for the call.
Or maybe I’m not. I’m not getting any younger. By the time the next GC Session arrives in Indianapolis (assuming the Lord has not come), I’ll officially be middle-aged. Not quite on death’s doorstep, but certainly not what one would call a young adult. Which speaks nothing as to my mindset.
Nevertheless, we give a lot of lip service to involving young adults in the church. The arguments (excuses?) have stated that young people don’t want to be involved in church administration – they’d rather be involved in ministry. Judging by the traffic on the #GCSA15 Twitter hashtag, there are young Adventists who are very interested in how their church is run and want to be involved in the process.
So, how do we make it happen?
I am a lifelong Adventist.
My dad’s dad was a pastor in the Ohio Conference and my mom’s dad was an Adventist university professor and missionary to the Far East. My parents took my brother and me to Sabbath School and church. Bottom line: I know the church. I love the church.
My wife and I were both at the General Conference Session five years ago in Atlanta. Aside from finances and the arrival of two little bundles of joy in this quinquennium, we would have done our best to attend at least a portion of the session in San Antonio. We were glad to be able to see and hear what was going on at session via the internet.
Here are some things I really enjoyed about the first day of this session.